Learning Environments & Curriculum

Interest Centers: Sensory

Teaching Strategies refers to centers as “Interest Centers” because they should be interesting!  This is the first of a series on interest centers with ideas and important concepts to remember when you are planning them.

The first is Sensory.

What is a sensory table?  A sensory table is not just a water or sand table.  It is a place that is messy and interesting and full of a variety of tactile sensations.  Sensory play offers a child an opportunity to explore through touch, sight and even smell.  Adding colors and extracts to a simple water table changes it visually and the scent of the extracts stimulate the olfactory sensations.

While children are playing, the teachers can encourage language by asking “how does that feel?”, “What do you smell?” – and a variety of materials elicit different responses.

Sensory play stimulates the brain’s receptors and builds connections that will help children with more complex tasks.  As early learning professionals, it is important that we understand how each activity works within the constructs of a child’s development as a whole.  Each simple task has many facets that affect growth and development.

Exploring the world around them is critical to a child’s brain development.  Touching things sends signals to the brain that helps children learn to identify objects.  This is why it is important to offer a variety of experiences.  Always playing in the sand doesn’t help a child understand the cold, slick feel of mud.

Sensory play helps to build the fine motor skills – the ability to pinch and manipulate fingers.

And it’s calming.  Have you ever sat in the sand and quietly drawn pictures with your fingers?  It’s wonderfully relaxing and centering.

In a nutshell, sensory play helps a child develop in every way – creatively, cognitively (including language skills), socially and emotionally, and physically.

So what to put in that table…..

Sand – put glitter in it with funnels and measuring cups or other props

Water – add color and scent – and fishing props

Potting soil with building or gardening props

Mud – wet, ooey, gooey mud.  Yes, mud.  Just put plastic down on the floor!

Cooked noodles – like these that were cooked in colored water

Snow!  Did it snow outside?  Bring some in – and if it’s freezing temperatures, put your water table outside over night and bring in an ice skating rink for little animals or dolls.

Ice cubes

Coffee Grounds – used and dry.  Used are sterile because they have been in hot water

Be creative – if it looks fun and interesting to you – if it’s safe for the kids (remember that choke hazard), then do it!  And change the material often.



© Copyright 2017  Helen Fern – Early Learning Tools NW

4 thoughts on “Interest Centers: Sensory

  1. All great ideas. I absolutely love the ice skating rink suggestion, my kids would love it. Sadly, it doesn’t snow where we live so I may just have to be creative and put a tray of water in the freezer…
    Thank you for joining The Really Crafty Link Party this week!

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